Great reports from Northside, West Middleton

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Northside principal Roz Craney and West Middleton principal Todd Macklem presented the continuous improvement process action plans and data regarding improvement for their respective schools at the Board of Education regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 9.

Macklem reported West Middleton had an 11.7 gap reduction for students who attended the school for the entire 2014-15 school year. That was below the school's 15-percent goal but still a good accomplishment. The school had an attainment goal of 70 percent and ended with 68 percent of students in grades 2-4 scoring at or above the 50th national percentile on the MAP assessment for reading.

He noted that West Middleton is a Focus school and it is an evaluation year for the program. The school has yet to receive criteria from the Department of Public Instruction, however, about how it will be evaluated.

"It's been an interesting journey,'' he said.

Macklem, who is in his fourth year at West Middleton, noted how the school has changed over that time. Enrollment has grown from 397 students to 436 even with fifth grade leaving for the middle schools. He also reported a much larger population of English Language Learners, special education and free-or-reduced lunch students.

The school also has a new Title I teacher due to a retirement. A Title I Family Night was held at Elver Park in the fall and turnout was substantially larger than when it was held at the school in the past.

"It was absolutely fantastic,'' he said, noting they are planning a Science Night at the school next.

Another focus for this year is attendance. Craney gave him some ideas to promote attendance, including trimester awards. West Middleton is also no longer using robo-calls when students are absent and has noticed a huge improvement already. He said there were 18 unexcused absences on the first day of school and the average now is about one a day.

"The feedback from parents has been encouraging,'' Macklem said.

Craney said Northside continues to focus on developing relationships. The school implemented a SPLASH program, which pairs 12 students with an adult at Northside, last year. This year's focus and theme is going places, thinking outside the box and working together. Groups do an activity each month on the last Wednesday of each month from 8 to 8:30 a.m.

"Teaching 5-year-olds to work with 10-year-olds has been eye-opening,'' he said. "It has been really neat to see those kids work together. It's really, really cool.''

The school started a yoga program last year to help staff focus on themselves. The program includes meditation, journal writing and weekly yoga. They also tried it with fourth-graders before tests. He noted a survey indicated 70 percent enjoyed it, 40 percent used some of the techniques before testing and 78 percent used it for other purposes. The program is headed up by art teacher Betsy Delzer.

"If we are giving them something they can use in life, what a cool thing to do,'' Craney said.

The library, which was refurbished over the summer, has been a huge hit, he said. The Madison Area Reading Club just rented that space and lots of other area groups are using it, too.

"It's more than a library,'' he said. "It's a place for all to learn. It's a comfortable, welcoming environment. ... It's impacting all students. It's such a vital part now of our school.''

Craney is also excited about the school's new equity team, which meets monthly and has 15-20 staff members participating. The approach is to learn, share experiences and share information with everyone.

Finally, he was thrilled with the Run-Walk-Move event that was held in collaboration with the PTO. Classroom teachers gave up an hour of the day, with 20 minutes spent moving around a small track behind the school. Every time a student went around the track they received a mark on a T-shirt bought by the PTO. He said 9,600 laps were completed by the 382 students and that more than 90 percent ran at least a mile.

"It was great opportunity for all kids. It was a celebration,'' said Superintendent Don Johnson, who attended the event.